The Best Holi Songs of Classic Bollywood Movies

Hema Malini Sholay holi

Hema Malini dances with joyful abandon in Sholay’s famous holi number “Holi Ke Din.”

The festival of Holi is among Bollywood’s favorite celebrations–an occasion at last as colorful as the country of its origin. Indeed Holi, a Hindu spring festival, is commonly known as the Festival of Colors. It is both a religious celebration signifying the triumph of Good over Evil, as well as a cultural one commemorating the onset of a new Spring season. It is marked by the throwing of colorful powders, the lighting of bonfires, and the strengthening of bonds between all individuals in colorful merriment. Its spirited catchphrase “Buraa na maano, Holi hai!” (Don’t bear any ill-feelings, it’s Holi!”) speaks to the underlying theme of the day – the burning of negative forces or ill-will, a sort of spiritual purging. The smearing of colors represents the deconstructing of identities and the breaking of social barriers, as all rejoice and participate together, regardless of social class. At the very least, it is a day to settle old scores and move on. Indeed, everyone is welcome and everyone is pardoned for his or her revelry. Thus, we mortals celebrate Holi today with fun and games, colors and powder, and Bollywood takes this grand opportunity to ignite romance.

Rajesh Khanna asha parekh holi

Rajesh Khanna woos Asha Parekh with color at the Holi celebration of Kati Patang (1970).

There’s something inherent to the playful tag-style nature of Holi that lends itself so conveniently to flirtation and a male-female dichotomy. We discussed the appalling lack of Diwali-associated songs in classic Bollywood previously, and hazarded the guess that the festival is far less conducive to overt flirtation and bumping dance grooves like Holi invariably is. Whether wooing the mourning lover into a literal rainbow of joy or painting your sweetheart with a visible mark of your flirtatious overtures, Holi delivers the goods for Bollywood every time.

Mother India holi

Even the old school epic Mother India takes a drama break for the holi festivities!

Below is our list of the 10 greatest Holi songs of classic Bollywood cinema. Happy Holi to all our readers–and if you’re stuck in a huge snowstorm like we are, here’s hoping Holi will usher in the Spring at last!

1. Rang barse (Silsila 1981)

The ultimate old school Holi hit, this song will force anyone to get in the mood and join the festivities! Say what you want about Amitabh and Rekha’s clandestine affair, this dance number will get you on board in no time!

2. Aaj na chodenge (Kati Patang 1970)

This song is easily my favorite Bollywood holi song! Besides the fact that I grew up on the Kati Patang soundtrack, does it get much better than Rajesh Khanna-Asha Parekh shy seduction? Lata and Kishore are delightful, but don’t get me started on the bizarre chorus act that chops up the number like barbarians on holiday.

3. Holi Aayi Re Kanhaayi (Mother India 1957)

Oh, there’s no school like the old school! Bring it back Nargis-style with this classic song from Mother India that just overflows with romance and sass! The only thing better than a Holi song is a Holi village dance-off.

4. Tan rang lo ji (Kohinoor 1960)

While this royal gem may be shot in black-and-white, you can practically see the colors flying in this fantastic Mohammed Rafi-Dilip Kumar celebration that invites the entire kingdom for a Holi song-and-dance sequence!

5. Holi Ke Din (Sholay 1975)

Retro flirting Queen Hema Malini proves to Dharmendra that she’s more than just a loud mouth in Sholay–her moves and dancing steal the show in this colorful song!

6. Are Ja Re Hat Natkhat (Navrang 1959)

Classical dancer Sandhya wows the audience with this traditional stage performance, alternating as both the male and female character complete with ghungroo! Asha Bhonsle’s Hindustani vocals balance out Mahendra Kapoor’s mainstream sway in a Holi number that is well-known even today for its stunning classical choreography.

7. Piya Tose Naina (Guide 1965)

Looking for something a little classier? Go no further than this Waheeda Rehman semi-classical piece from the great philosophical Guide. Watch her prance around with so much joie de vivre, you’ll ignore how gaudy the stage is decorated and your feelings for high-pitched female choruses of the 1960s.

8. Nadiya Se Dariya (Namak Haram 1973)

This song is just plain cute. While not a roaring shoulder-shaking dance off like some of these others, the song is playful and full of shy passion for Rajesh Khanna, which we always approve of.

9. Baghi Re Bhagi Brij Bala (Rajput 1982)

I think this hidden jewel is under-appreciated by historians. While something of a repeat of previous Hema Malini-Dharmendra magic, Vinod Khanna holds his own in this fast-paced duet that once again brings an entire kingdom to the palace to party Holi-style!

10. Kaikhe Paan Banaraswala (Don 1978)

OK, so this isn’t technically a Holi song per se, but it’s arguably the unofficial anthem! There’s something about a traditional, rich beat coupled with Kishore’s absolutely unabashed vocals that set the tone of a celebration and throwing inhibitions to the wind!

While Holi was born in India, it’s popularity was carried across the diaspora and is celebrated around the world each year with full force! The picture below is from my freshman year at Harvard where Holi was played on the Mac quad! Can you spot me in the pigtails with the orange-yellow face?

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– Mrs. 55

Mausam Hai Aashiqana Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu Hindi

Meena Kumari Pakeezah 4

Meena Kumari pines for an unseen admirer in “Mausam Hai Ashiqana” from Pakeezah (1971).

We revive our popular Pakeezah series and bring you the lyrics and English translation to “Mausam Hai Ashiqana” from Pakeezah (1971) in honor of Meena Kumari’s 80th birthday today! This beautiful melody rendered, of course, by none other than Lata Mangeshkar carries the sense of gently waking up from a dream. Indeed, “Mausam Hai Ashiqana” is sung just as Meena Kumari discovers the abode of her secret admirer–and is filled with joy and hope for the future. The song is one of Pakeezah‘s finest (what does that even mean though, when EVERY song from Pakeezah is a crown jewel?!), and focuses heavily on scenic imagery and the landscape. Perhaps this too is because of Meena Kumari’s growing sickness as filming of Pakeezah became more and more delayed (see our post on behind-the-scenes drama!)

Pakeezah Meena Kumari 3

Meena Kumari passes the long hours daydreaming of her beloved in Pakeezah (1971).

The sounds of birds chirping are even woven into the opening of the musical track with a shot of silhouetted birds flying across the sunrise: a symbol of Pakeezah’s new freedom. The whole effect is feel-good and tender–especially coming after the traumatic elephant attack of the previous scene. Unlike the other semi-classical Lata solos in the film, “Mausam Hai Ashiqana” is pure filmi bliss outside the mujra setting. At last, Pakeezah is able to express a sincere and true anticipation for her beloved’s arrival–sentiments that Pakeezah had before only pretended to feel when dancing before an audience. Queen of her own realm, Pakeezah eagerly explores the new landscape for once without the fetters of a cruel society. Find the lyrics and translation to “Mausam Hai Ashiqana” below and follow along on youtube!

Mausam Hai Aashiqana Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu Hindi

Mausam hai aashiqaanaa
The season is amorous
Aye dil kahii.N se unko aise mei.N DhoonD laanaa
Oh my heart, find him somewhere and bring him to me

Kehna ki ruth jawaan hai
Tell him that the atmosphere is youthful
Aur hum taras rahe hai.N
And that I am pining for him
Kaali ghaTaa ke saaye
The shadows of dark clouds
Phir humko Das rahe hai.N
Are once more attacking me
Dar hai na maar Daale
I am afraid they will kill me
Saawan ka kya Thikaanaa?
What shelter can there be from the rains?

Suraj kahii.N bhii jaaye
The sun may go anywhere
Tum par na dhuup aaye
But let sunlight not fall upon you
Tumko pukaarte hai.N in gesuuo.N ke saaye
The shade of my tresses calls out to you
Aa jaao, mai.N bana doo.N palkon kaa shaamiyaanaa
Come, I will make a tent for you from my eyelids

Phirte hai.N hum akele
I wander about alone
Baaho.N mei.N koi lele
Let someone take me in their arms
Aakhir koii kahaa.N tak tanhaaiiyo.N se khele?
After all, for how long can one play with loneliness?
Din ho gaye hai.N zaalim
The days have become cruel
Raate.N hai.N qaatilaanaa
The nights are murderous

Yeh raat yeh khamoshii
This night, this silence
Yeh khwaab se nazaare
These visions from my dreams
Jugnuu hai.N ya zameen par utre hue hai.N taare?
Are these fireflies or stars that have fallen to Earth?

Bekhwaab merii aankhe.N
My eyes are without dreams
Madhosh hai zamaanaa
But the world seems intoxicated

Mausam hai aashiqaanaa
The season is amorous
Aye dil kahii.N se unko aise mei.N DhoonD laanaa
Oh my heart, find him somewhere and bring him to me

Glossary:

mausam: season; aashiqaanaa: amorous; ruth: atmosphere; jawaan: youthful, young; taras rehna: to be pining; ghaTaa: cloud; saayaa: shadow; Dar: fear; maar Daalnaa: to kill; saawan: rains; Thikaana: shelter; suraj: sun; dhuup: sunlight; gesuu: tresses of hair; shaamiyaanaa: tent; tanhaaii: loneliness; zaalim: cruel; qaatilaanaa: murderous; khamoshii: silence; khwaab: dream; jugnuu: firefly; madhosh: intoxicated

Pakeezah Meena Kumari 1

Waiting for Rajkumar to return home, Meena Kumari sings a song of longing in Pakeezah (1971).

Can we also talk about how Meena Kumari is seen to be wearing an oversized khaki button down during bits of this song, as in, she is wearing his shirt! I never put that together before. Oh, it’s the little things! For more translations from the musical epic that is Pakeezah, check out our English translation of Chalte Chalte!

-Mrs. 55

The Immortal Dialogue of Pakeezah and English Translation

Now we will explore some classic Pakeezah dialogue, quotes and their English translations from the timeless 1971 film. I think it’s pretty clear that we’re obsessed with this movie. We’ve discussed the making of the film and its songs, but let’s take a moment to appreciate Pakeezah’s dialogue for which there is truly no comparison outside of the ode to spoken Urdu poetry that is Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Aapke paaoo.N dekhe. Bahut haseen hai.N. Inhe zameen par mat utariiyega. Mele ho jaaye.Nge –Aapkaa ek humsafar…”

[“I have seen your feet. They are beautiful. Please do not place them on the ground. They will become dirty. –A fellow traveler…”]

I have to give a caveat: although we have provided a full English translation of these Pakeezah dialogues, I think the true poetry is lost outside of the Urdu language. Written by Kamal Amrohi himself, the exquisite dialogue of Pakeezah transports you to a languid surrealist fantasy. Among other questions, you may ask did people really talk like that? Do men as devastatingly charming as Raajkumar exist in real life? How fake is that blonde wig from the opening scene, seriously?

Although some of these will remain unanswered, let us now look closer at 3 of my favorite gems of Pakeezah dialogue and English translations that will be sure to get your heart rate up.

Ek har raat, teen baje. Ek rail gaadi apni patriyon se utar gayii, aur meri dil se guzarti hai...

[“Every night, when the clock strikes 3, a train leaves its rails and passes through my heart…”]

The first dialogue comes days after Pakeezah has received Rajkumar’s love letter. She is restless and can no longer focus on her work. Pakeezah confesses the reason for her behavior to her friend, who reacts famously against indulging such dreams. It’s a heartbreaking scene made artful by the grace of the Urdu language. Also please look at those sets and tell me there are architects in America who know how to build them.

PAKEEZAH: Bahut dino.N se, mujhe aisaa kuch lagtaa hai jaise mai.N badaltii jaa rahii hoo.N. Jaise mai.N kisi anjaane safar mei.N hoo.N aur kahii.N jaa rahii hoo.N. Sab kuch chuuTa jaa raha hai. Sahib Jaan bhi mujhse chuuT rahe hai.N, aur mai.N Sahib Jaan se duur hoti jaa rahi hoo.N.

[PAKEEZAH: For many days now, I feel as if I am changing. As if I am on an unknown journey and going somewhere. Everything is going away from me. Sahib Jaan is even leaving me, and I am going far from Sahib Jaan.]

SAHELI: Kaun hai yeh?

[SAHELI: Who is he?]

PAKEEZAH: Kaun?

[PAKEEZAH: Who?]

SAHELI: Yehii. Jisse mai.N pooch rahi hoo.N. Bataao!

[SAHELI: Him, whom I am asking about. Tell me!]

PAKEEZAH: Kya bataaoo.N kaun hai? Ek ajiib waaqaaya hai.

[PAKEEZAH: What should I say about who he is? It is a strange tale.]

SAHELI: Kya?

[SAHELI: What?]

 

PAKEEZAH: Ek har raat. Teen baje. Ek rail gaadi apni patriyon se utar gayii, aur meri dil se guzarti hai. Aur mujhe ek paighaam de jaati hai.

[PAKEEZAH: Every night at three o’ clock, a train leaves its rails and passes through my heart. And it gives me a message.]

SAHELI: Sahib Jaan, yeh paighaam tere liye nahii.N.

[SAHELI: Sahib Jaan, this message is not for you.]

PAKEEZAH: Kyaa? Nahii.N, nahii.N. Yeh mere hii liye hai. Is se mai.N ne apni hi paaoo.N mei.N rakhaa huaa payaa tha.

[PAKEEZAH: What? No, no, this is for me. It had been placed on my feet.]

SAHELI: Haa.N. Lekin us waqt tere paaoo.N mei.N ghungroo bandhe hue nahii.N ho.Nge. Agar ghungroo bandhe hue hote, to yeh kaise koi kahta ki paaoo.N ko zameen par mat rakhna? Maile ho jaaye.Nge? Merii jaan, yeh paighaam to hai. Lekin bhatak gayaa hai.

[SAHELI: Yes. But at that time, you’re feet were not bound by ankle bells. If they had been bound in ankle bells, how could anyone say “do not place your feet on the ground”? “They will become dirty”? My dear, this is certainly a message, but it is misguided.]

Tragic, right? My next favorite scene comes when Pakeezah has inadvertently landed inside Rajkumar’s own tent. She senses him approaching, and pretends to be asleep. Rajkumar bursts in with an appropriate flush of theme music to accompany him.

Rajkumar stares at sleeping Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (1971)

Pakeezah panics and the audience enters into her thoughts as she narrates her feelings in this beautiful moment of love and fear.

Pakeezah is unable to look at the mysterious man she loves in Pakeezah (1971)

“Allah! Woh mere paas khade hai.N. Aur meri jaan nikal jaa rahi hai. Aap yuu.N hii hairaan hairaan mujhe dekhte rehe.Nge. Mai.N taraste taraste, bina aapko ek nazar dekhe, mar jaaoo.Ngii. Aap hi ke samne, aap hi ke bistar par khatam ho jaaoo.Ngii. Zara muu.N phenk lijiye. Mai.N ek saa.Ns leloo.N! Ek chalak aapke dhekh loo.N!”

[“God! He is standing near me. And I feel as if I am dying. You will continue to stare at me in surprise, and I will slowly die without glancing at you even once. Beside you, on your bed itself, I will be finished. Please turn your face away so that I can take a breath! Let me take just a glimpse of you!’]

I can’t get enough of this scene–her words are so poetically expressed, but so vividly capture the anxiety of the moment!

Wondering what all the hype is about? Here are Meena Kumari’s exquisite feet in Pakeezah (1971)

“Afsos ki log duudh se bhi jal jaate…”

[“How unfortunate that people are burned even by mere milk…”]

The last epic dialogue I’ll discuss comes when Rajkumar brings Meena Kumari home for the first time. Do arguments really happen like that? In my house, an argument never devolves into an Urdu poem–but then again, we don’t have those outfits on.

D.K. Sapru plays a very scary Hakim Sahib in Pakeezah (1971)

HAKIM SAAB: Salim, woh kaun hai?

[HAKIM SAAB: Salim, who is this?]

SALIM: Woh ek gumnaam ladki hai.

[SALIM: She is a lost girl.]

HAKIM SAAB: To woh tumhaare saath hai?

[HAKIM SAAB: She is with you?]

SALIM: Jii.

[SALIM: Yes.]

HAKIM SAAB: Yaani?

[HAKIM SAAB: Meaning?]

SALIM: Yeh kaun hai, mai.N bhi nahii.N jaantaa. Yeh ek mazluum ladki ki jo apni aadaash kho chukhi hai. Aur itefaaqan woh meri panaah mei.N aa gayii hai.

[SALIM: Who she is, even I don’t know. She is an oppressed girl who had lost her memory. And by chance, she came into my care.]

HAKIM SAAB: Lekin, tumhaare is bayaan par, kaun yaqeen karegaa?

[HAKIM SAAB: But who will believe this tale of yours?]

Unnaturally handsome Rajkumar stands his ground against his family in Pakeezah (1971)

SALIM: Mujhe iski parva nahii.N

[SALIM: I am not worried about that.]

HAKIM SAAB: Tumhe nahii.N, lekin hame.N iski parva hai. Jo log duudh se jal jaate. Woh chaas bhi phoonk phoonk kar piite.

[HAKIM SAAB: You may not be, but I am. Those people who are burned by milk, drink even the froth with caution.

SALIM: Afsos ki log dhuudh se bhi jal jaate.

[SALIM: How unfortunate that people are burned even by mere milk.] Oh my God, such a good comeback! So poetic, so simple. I die.

HAKIM SAAB: Tum humse bahaz karna chaahte ho? Humse bahaz karne ki zaruurat nahii.N. Aisii ladkii jiskaa koi naam nahii.N, pathaa nahii.N, woh kyuu.N tumhaare saath hai?

[HAKIM SAAB: You want to argue with me? There is no need to argue. A girl with no name, no address, why is she with you?]

SALIM: Isliye ki woh merii panaah mei.N aayii. Aur yeh koi gunaah nahii.N.

[SALIM: Because she came under my care. And that is no crime.]

Meena Kumari grows more and more uncomfortable as she eavesdrops their argument.

HAKIM SAAB: Gunaah to nahii.N. Lekin ismei.N hamaarii badnaami hai.

[HAKIM SAAB: It is not a crime. But I could be dishonored from it.]

SALIM: Jii nahii.N, agar is mei.N koi badnaamii hai, to merii hai.

[SALIM: No, if anyone is dishonored, it is me.]

HAKIM SAAB: Tum kaun ho? Kya humko tumhaara koi rishtaa nahii.N?

[HAKIM SAAB: Who are you? Do you have no relation with me?]

SALIM: Jii hai. Lekin is maumle se aapkaa koi taluk nahii.N.

[SALIM: Yes, I do. But this matter does not concern you.]

HAKIM SAAB: Humaare koi taluk nahii.N?? Agar hamaaraa koi taaluk nahii.N. To phir tum apnii yeh badnaamii hamaare ghar kyuu.N le aaya ho?

[HAKIM SAAB: It does not concern me?? If it does not concern me, then why have you brought this dishonorable girl to my house?]

Rajkumar checks out Pakeezah for some inspiration and proceeds to storm out of the room in a flurry of Urdu poetry.

SALIM: Beshak mujhse ghalati huii. Mai.N bhuul hi gayaa tha. Is ghar ke insaano.N ko har saa.Ns ke baad doosre saa.Ns lene ki ijaazat aapse lenii padhtii hai. Aur aapki aulaad khuda ki banaaii hui zameen par nahii.N chaltii, aapki hatheli par rehti hai.N

[SALIM: Undoubtedly, I have made a mistake. I had forgotten that in his house, after every breath people must ask your permission to take the second. And that your children do not walk on the earth that God made, but live in the palm of your hand.]

Whoa. How do metaphors that awesome just come to you like that? I need to re-evaluate how I insult people. Why do these kinds of situations never happen to me?

As a small note, I just think the one-liner the head aunt says before the song “Chalte Chalte” is pretty sweet. When no one else shows up that night because the rich client has scared them all off, she graciously says to him,

“Log nahiin.N aaye, to na sahii. Sitaaron ki raat se, ek chaandni raat mei.N to kai zyaadaa roshni hoti hai.”

[“Other people did not come, so be it. In a moonlit night there is more radiance than in a night of stars.”]

Wah wah! The movie is teeming with pearls like this!

What is YOUR favorite dialogue from Pakeezah? Let us know in the comments! For more dialogues, check out our post on the beauty of Urdu in classic Bollywood film!

-Mrs. 55

Making the Cut in Pakeezah: Behind-the-scenes of one of Bollywood’s most elaborate musicals

The ethereal Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (1971)

Few films have more behind-the-scenes gossip and excitement than Pakeezah (1971). If you know anything about classic Hindi film songs, you’ve probably heard some part of the Pakeezah soundtrack from director Kamal Amrohi’s 1971 legend. The film stars tragedy queen Meena Kumari as Pakeezah and gorgeous, gravely-voiced Raajkumar in a story of unforgiving traditional values that collide with the forbidden love of a pure-hearted courtesan. In an ironic twist, Pakeezah is revealed at the climax to be the hero’s long lost cousin, thus at last sanctioning their marriage (the ethical complexities of this kicker are a whole different issue.) But the movie itself is pure cinematic magic–Kamal Amrohi was notorious for his artistry and attention to detail. Pakeezah’s breath-taking production design, Ghulam Muhammed’s haunting semi-classical thumris, and the effortless poetry of the film’s dialogue is like entering one long, opium-induced dream.

But what was happening beneath the surface? A whole lot of drama.

Director Kamal Amrohi married Meena Kumari when she was 19 years old in 1952. They began filming Pakeezah within a few years–in fact, the song Inhi Logon Ne (raga Yaman) was filmed and edited before Amrohi switched to coloured film stock. The 1956 black-and-white version of the song was never used, but many of the shots are extremely similar to the final version. Notice how different young Lata’s voice sounds in this song compared to parts of the soundtrack recorded years later. Even more interestingly, Inhi Logon Ne was originally taken from the film Himmat (1941) in a version sung by none other than Shamshad Begum!

My favorite non-Lata song from the film is, Nazariyan Ki Maari, sung by 1930s playback singer Rajkumari Dubey. During production, when Naushad spotted Rajkumari singing in his chorus to make ends meet (and this is a woman who had been first female playback singer of India!), he reportedly caused an uproar and gave his former collaborator her own solo. This is why we love Naushad.

Pakeezah took over 14 years to complete, mainly because of the famously tumultuous relationship between Kamal and Meena (and her eventual alcoholism). Rumor has it that Meena was such a hot mess during the filming of Chalo Dildar Chalo, Amrohi cut her out and reworked the shot list so that her face is actually never seen in the song. Her condition became so bad that during the filming of the grueling emotional mujraa “Teer-e Nazar,” Meena Kumari collapsed. A body double, none other than filmi vamp Padma Khanna, was recruited to replace her! Meena Kumari personally trained her for the scene, and the song was filmed with the majority of the dancing done with an opaque chunni hiding Padma’s face! I would’ve killed to be a yes-man on that set and drink in all the gossip.

A very convenient camera angle…

Speaking of which, did you know the beautiful Mohammed Rafi-Lata Mangeshkar duet, Chalo Dildar Chalo (raga Pahadi), was actually also recorded as a female solo? Intended for use as a dancing number, the fascinating solo version was cut from both the film and record releases, although in my opinion, coupling the theme of romantic freedom in the lyrics with the close-up imagery of a ghungroo-bound Pakeezah could have been beautiful filmic irony. But it just didn’t make the cut.

And you know what else got cut from this film? I mean, literally, cut off. Turns out Meena Kumari was actually missing her left pinky from an accident that occurred around the time of her marriage! For a film that is so heavily focused on music and dancing, you can imagine that structuring every tiny shot and dance move to hide the left hand was tricky–but if you watch the film closely, Amrohi does a meticulous job of making sure her left hand stays hidden. And Meena Kumari’s right hand works such graceful magic, I dare you to find a prettier dancer with all 10 fingers.

For more information on the classic film, check out our page dedicated to the immortal dialogue from Pakeezah and the songs from Pakeezah!

– Mrs. 55